The long-delayed election for one-third of the Haitian Senate was finally held on April 19 amid fears of anticipated widespread violence that did not materialize, except for a few skirmishes. Security was heavy, which is characteristic under the Security Council-mandated occupation of Haiti (2004-?) where unsubstantiated rumors and barefaced propaganda are utilized as substitutes to reality. The $12.5 millions allocated by the international community in an orchestrated attempt to showcase its stewardship of democracy in Haiti, however, failed to bring the people to the polls. The international media which, in the months leading to the French-American invasion of February 29, 2004, aggressively chronicled the alleged destruction of democracy in Haiti by Jean Bertrand Aristide and his so-called gangs of chimères practically, ignored the vote.
In Port-au-Prince, home to a quarter of Haiti’s population, the police, acting without the benefit of reliable intelligence reports that would have squelched the rumor of impending unrests, ordered public transportation closed, leaving thousands of potential voters without the means to get to the polls. At Mirebalais, in the central region of the country, angry voters dumped the ballots into the streets forcing the authorities to cancel the balloting. Nationally, between 3 to 9 percent of the electorate bothered to cast their votes, according to authoritative estimates.
Since politicians generally see a partly filled cup as being half-full instead of half-empty, René Préval, Haiti’s president, solemnly declared “I am aware they say the participation rate is going to be low but tomorrow the results will come out and we will know who wins and how many people voted”. As expected, tomorrow came and went, and no election results were announced. In any case, whatever Préval says or thinks is irrelevant, because the man is as much in the dark in the decision making process as the majority of Haitians. What matters is whether the international community considers the election valid, which would be surprising, seeing that low voter participation in the 2000 election (30%) was instrumental in orchestrating the events that culminated in the February 29th 2004 infamy.
Was the low turnout the result of voters’ apathy, an ominous warning to the government, an unequivocal rejection of the politic of exclusion, or a referendum on the occupation? The answers vary depending on whom you ask. However, voters’ apathy is definitely not one of them in a country where voting is a privilege rather than a fundamental right, because on the few occasions Haitians were allowed to participate, they voted in overwhelming numbers. Even the well-orchestrated boycott of the 2000 election by the opponents of constitutional rule in Haiti and their international allies did not dampen the people’s enthusiasm to vote. One-third of the electorate voted in that election, a far higher proportion than the April 19th votes.
It should be noted that Haiti’s pitiful economy contracted 15% as a result of last year’s devastating hurricane season and the global economic downturn, making the already tense situation more precarious than ever. Days before the April 19th vote, an international conference of donor nations pledged 324 millions of dollars over two years, even though Haiti had requested 900 millions, and MINUSTAH budget for the fiscal year ending in June 2009 is 601.58 millions. Claiming victory, Haiti’s prime minister, Michelle Pierre-Louis, a George Soros alumnus, declared with a straight face “the amount was more than expected”. It is obvious that the government and the international community just don’t get it. Haiti’s deteriorating situation cannot possibly be solved with sham elections and military occupation; the normally resilient population is fed up with the charade.
The exclusion of Haiti’s largest political party (Lavalas) on a technicality (the banned candidates failed to produce the required signature of their banished party leader, former president JBA) and the international community’s acquiescence to it apparently did not play well with the population. Speaking of legal niceties, why isn’t the impostor former senator Reginald Boulos charged with violating Haiti’s electoral laws? These two cases demonstrate that arrogance and unaccountability in Haiti remain the greatest threat to building a stable, just, and prosperous democratic state. The low turnout should be interpreted as a rejection of the politic of exclusion and an unambiguous victory for Lavalas, which had vowed to boycott the election with its aptly named “operation closed doors”.
Lastly, it is evident that the occupation of Haiti was a strategic move meant to prevent the destabilization of the Caribbean region in the event the country imploded, a scenario that was fast becoming a probability in the last 23 years. This distinct possibility does not make the occupation acceptable nevertheless, given that the international community’s machinations produced the situation. From its support of the brutal military regimes of the 1980’s and 90’s, the armed insurrection against a democratically elected government (2003-04), and the imperial Latortue regime (2004-06), the international community’s implicit involvement in the destruction of Haiti is a matter of historical records.
Besides, what was the point in electing figureheads that would never be consulted on matters of crucial importance to the country? In true democracies, elected officials are responsible to their constituents, a reality that is presently not the case in Haiti. Duped into believing they were voting to recover their country’s sovereignty in the February 2006 election only to discover they were legitimizing the occupation, Haitians simply protested this time around. Simply put, the election was a total failure.